Tag Archive | suffering

Upside down

 

It has been months since I last wrote on my blog.. I thought maybe I would give it  up.. but I see that people are still reading it so I am back. My world has turned upside down since I last posted. My husband’s disease suddenly worsened and he was hospitalized. He is now in skilled nursing.. all of this started on the day after Labor day so it has been almost two months. I had to move quickly and I am now staying with my daughter. She and her husband were gracious enough to take me in and let me be here until the next step is clear.

Everything is unclear.. my husband is still here but eventually this disease will take his life and I will be a widow again.. The first time was 20 years ago. Everything is different this time.. Steve and I are having a sweet season right now.. I am able to help out with his care and show him that my love is just as strong as ever.. He is able to smile and tell me he loves me.. even though he is confused and disabled now.. He remembers me and he remembers us. We still look into each other’s eyes and I continue to look forward to each day that I have on this earth with him.

Dementia is a terrible disease and it should not have the right to take the life of someone so young.. it is so hard on the person who has it and terrible on those who love that person. Sometimes I just can’t imagine that the Lord is allowing this and yet I know deep down that he has purposes that are totally mysterious in all that is happening. I am grieving for the life we had together.. knowing it will never return. I miss us.. our home, our lives our dreams. I look ahead the road is empty.. no more dreams for me.. only the hope that God will not waste this suffering.. that He will use me to bring comfort to those who will go through this and need understanding.. He is teaching me what grief feels like that is daily.. anticipatory grief.. ambivalent grief.. grief that rises up and attacks me at night.. grief that hides it’s face and suddenly tries to drown me.

A while back I started writing poems.. I never even liked poetry but they seemed to come out of the darkness and sadness.. from somewhere deep inside me.  Here is the most recent one:

The Eye of the Storm

It is totally dark

the winds blow all around me

There is no future

No light

Only a deep darkness

I am alone

sad, lonely, waiting

The road ahead is empty

He is here with me, yet I 

feel like I am falling

Keep me close to you Jesus

 

My memories of our life together are like sweet soft pillows that I lie on at night when the sadness comes.. the trips we took.. the dinners we ate.. the drives we went on.. the sweetness of our love.. nothing can take that away.

Our God is with us as we continue to trust Him through all of this.. He will never abandon or forsake us.. we are His.

Lent..again

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As I look back on my blog, I see that I seem to write a post every year during Lent.. I want to be true to that tradition and it has been a while since I posted. I always see Lent as an opportunity to reflect.. to look back and to see how God has been working and to be aware of what He is doing right now.

I don’t even remember the Lent season last year.. probably because I was getting ready to bring my very disabled elderly mother to my home. I brought her here almost exactly one year ago.. It was the day before Easter 2018.. so that was March 31st.. the day after my wedding anniversary.. I was pretty worried about how it would go and that was apparently a prophetic feeling…since it did not go well at all and three weeks later I was frantically looking for a skilled nursing facility that would take her.. I never found one but Kaiser did! What a trial that was.. then we were faced with another even more challenging situation. It was becoming very clear that something was wrong with my husband and I knew I had to face whatever it was.. we found out in May that he has a rare type of dementia..

I have been grieving since that neurology appointment and it is only now that I feel like I can say that I have begun to accept this outcome.. many nights of crying, yelling out to the Lord and feeling sorry for myself followed that diagnosis. We are now living in a “new normal.”

This year for Lent I was hoping to focus on giving up worry and anxiety.. but God seemed to have another plan for me. Instead of trying not to worry or be anxious He began to show me that it was impossible to truly get rid of those things and that I needed to give myself permission to have those feelings and others  and to welcome them as part of me.. I never imagined that as an option.. but it has helped tremendously. There is even a name for this.. Welcoming prayer..As I have tried this.. my process is to sit with my feelings, to acknowledge them and not fight them.. to just feel them and when they are less intense, I release them to the Lord.. The result has been more peace and much less fear.

It was a big shift for me to realize that all feelings are legitimate and that I don’t have to deny them or try to kill them.. even the ones I dislike.. that the Lord will enable me to live through the times of sadness, pain, grief, worry, anxiety, fear and anger. I realized at a deep level that I am not defined by these feelings or these times of struggle. We live in a broken world and when the brokenness overwhelms us it is incredibly difficult and impossible to pretend that we are not suffering and hurting.

The take away is that we are loved by God even as we battle the feelings we wish we never had. He is not going to leave us even when our circumstances overwhelm us. So I am living more fully day by day and thanking Him for the good days..or maybe just the good hours or minutes.. Knowing that this journey is full of uncertainty when it comes to our future but that we can be certain of God and His faithfulness.

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Memories

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Remembering is such an important aspect of our faith. We remember all that the Lord has done for us.. He remembers us.. our needs, desires.. everything about us.

I have lots of time on my hands these days since my only job is to help my husband in the ways that he needs it.. The condition he has affects his memory and that impacts our relationship as well.. I want him to remember things that he has forgotten and he remembers some things that I can’t remember because we were not together until later in life. With this extra time.. I can reflect on how all of this is impacting me.

I understand that his forgetting is a big deal for me.. it seems like we base so much of our life together on the good times we have shared.. Fortunately he still remembers lots of those times.. but I know that could change. Today as I was getting lunch ready I thought about this and realized that the Lord has all those memories and even if we forget things.. God does not and someday we will be together with Him and all the memories will be returned to us.  We will be restored and nothing will be missing.

One thing that my husband is not forgetting is the Lord and how important He is to us. He won’t lose that knowledge because he has the Spirit of God in him.. we can pray together even if he forgets many words..we can reminisce about how God has always been there for us even if the details are foggy.. Our God is very much in our midst and He will stay with us through whatever the future holds.

My job besides the care giving is to remember the goodness of God above all else. To dwell on all the ways He has come for me when I thought everything was lost.. to know that nothing that is happening behind His back.. He knows and He sees and He will direct our steps in this season.

“I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
 yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.”       ( psalm 77:11-12)

Find me in the River

My last post included a video.. you have to play it on my site because it does not show up as a video if you receive email updates. The song is Find me in the River from a CD called streams that was released in 1999.. a tribute to the classic devotional Streams in the Desert.

Here are the lyrics:

Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I’ve walked against the water
Now I’m waiting if you please

We’ve longed to see the roses
But never felt the thorns
And bought our pretty crowns
But never paid the price

Find me in the river
Find me there
Find me on my knees with my soul laid bare
Even though you’re gone and I’m cracked and dry
Find me in the river, I’m waiting here

Find me in the river
Find me on my knees
I’ve walked against the water
Now I’m waiting if you please

We didn’t count on suffering
We didn’t count on pain
But if the blessing’s in the valley
Then in the river I will wait.

The whole CD is worth listening to if you find yourself in the wilderness or the dark valley..

Blessings,

Alicia

Here comes July …

 

 

 

I actually have a very difficult time as July begins every year. Undoubtedly because this time of year is associated with two big losses in my life. My deceased husband died on July 6th and my beloved sister-in -law died on July 12th. The deaths were nine years apart, but the memories are always fresh. This year as I grapple with the disease that is affecting my husband.. the grief was triggered again.. So.. there is no way around it all. Life is about loss in many ways and the years that pass take the edge off but the losses are never gone..we learn to live with them. That is the nature of grief.

Maybe you are wondering why I write about grief so often.. the answer is because it has changed me to understand and accept grief as part of our life in this world.  God made us the way we are.. He allows us to feel sad and lonely and forgotten. He allows life to be more challenging than we ever imagined. He knows we are going to suffer and that we will cry out to Him in our pain. We live in a fallen world and all these things are reminders to us that there is more. ” All the sad things will become untrue.” I am totally counting on it..especially now.. more than any other time in my life I am longing for that heavenly mansion and the place where there are ” no more tears.”

One thing suffering does is produce a hunger in us for the Lord.. we can either pull away in bitterness or cling tightly to Him.. sometimes we end up doing both as we wrestle with challenging circumstances. We may lash out in anger and tell Him He is unfair while at the same time crying out for relief.. at least that is what I do. Today while I was sitting with my cat and reading my BIble I thought of this song from an old CD and as I played it I realized that it was describing me.. just as I am, not as I want to be.. but as I truly am today.

 

God does not waste anything..

 

 

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I cannot remember who first told me that.. but I imagine it was over 30 years ago. I did not understand it the way I do now:) God is at work in every circumstance and will use every single experience for good. Yes, I had trouble with that one ( Romans 8:28) at first, but now.. it is very real to me. Every difficult and challenging trial I’ve experienced has been training for times when I can sit with another person and encourage them.. the reason? The more hard things you go through in life.. the more you have to offer others who are hurting. When people come to me for counseling I often say ” you really cannot shock me because of all the life experiences I have lived through” usually that turns out to be true. God does not waste anything.. He uses it all to help us understand and help others.

It feels really good to realize once again that He is always training me to be more understanding and compassionate. He is preparing me to see into the next broken heart that sits in front of me and needs healing. How does He accomplish that? I am not sure.. I do know that He stretches me and finds those places that need changing and as I agree with Him.. He begins a deeper work of transformation.. It is awesome.

I don’t know about you.. but I want the full measure of life that God has for me ( John 10:10) and I realize that often comes through trials and tests. Somehow we don’t learn as easily when things are going smoothly..in reality that is rare in the life of a Believer. No.. it is not all trials and suffering, but we are never promised an easy life here. What we do have is His promise to be with us.. His Spirit to guide us and strength for the journey.

So if things are difficult right now.. remember He is doing something deep inside your heart.. preparing you for the day when you will share what you have learned with another person.. when you will encourage someone who has a broken heart or is struggling with pain and suffering . You will become a source of life to them.. bringing hope and healing.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

This is one of my very favorite scriptures ( from Isaiah 61) Jesus read this in the temple in the book of Luke.. It describes perfectly what He came to do and what He allows us to do with Him.. Amazing!

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A Dip

We spent the weekend at a church theological retreat. Our speaker was a wonderful seminary professor, Mark Futato. He taught on the wisdom books of the Bible..Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and today at church we heard his perspective on the book of Job. All of the teaching was amazing and enlightening, but today really touched my heart.

His insights on Job were so refreshing, I’ve never heard anyone explain it so well. We often hear Job’s name and think of nothing but all the suffering he went through, but that is not the heart of the book. Job’s life started well and ended even better. He was a man who honored God and he was one who walked on the path that God prepared for him. His life was filled with blessings before the dip. When God allowed him to be tested, everything was taken away.

We hear his friends telling him to repent and we read of Job crying out in desperation to the Lord. He knew he was innocent and that he had done nothing to deserve what was happening. He had no idea why God allowed these things to happen, but he persevered..even in his confusion. Exactly what we need to do when we go into a dip.

Mark reminded us that a dip is not a dead-end. He helped us remember that we can take all of our confusion and angry emotions to the Lord and that He will not be shocked or surprised since He already knows our struggle. The one thing that we cannot do is quit..we have to continue, to persevere, and to trust that God will come for us and we will be restored the same way Job was.

So if you are in a dip.. a place of loss and stress..an unbearable situation that makes no sense and if you know that you did not stray off the path and that God has been leading you..be like Job. Be tenacious and hang on because you will receive the blessing that he received. By the end of the book he has been restored and has twice as much as he had in the beginning. He still never truly understood the reason for the dip..God did not reveal that to him, but He knew God in a deeper way than ever before.

Lord, for those of us who feel left alone in the dip, we choose to believe that you will come for us..that you have not forgotten us and like Job, we will praise your name when you pull us out. You will get the glory and we will enjoy the blessings that you bring into our lives. 

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The last chapter of Job says this…

“So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters.”